One of the great things about all the Star Wars films, and The Force Awakens is not exception, is the level of detail in the scenes. One of the scenes in The Force Awakens that stands out as getting fans imagination going is the sequence where Kylo Ren places his helmet on a table covered in ashes. The scene has led to much speculation about what that could be from them being Darth Vader's ashes to a litter box for General Hux's cat Millicent. Director JJ Abrams spoke with Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican about the scene.
"The backstory is, that that table has the ashes of the enemies he’s killed. That moment was actually shot for, and meant to be used in, the scene where he was talking to the Vader mask."
Two things stand out from that. One, Kylo keeps the ashes of those he's killed. And two, the Vader scene was originally shot with a helmetless Kylo.
JJ Abrams also discussed why they repurposed the shot for the interrogation scene, saying,
"He originally had his mask off the first time we shot that scene. Then we reshot it with his mask on, but we had that shot which I loved and thought was so cool of the mask being slammed down into that ash. So that shot was stolen from the scene that we had changed and put into the scene with Rey"
Keeping the ashes of his enemies is a dark addition to his character, but it does sound like something Kylo Ren would do. Kylo wants to be feared by those around him, but he seems to also need to remind himself of his dark path at times (he does feel "the pull to the light"), so keeping the ashes would be a graphic reminder of what he believes he should be doing.
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